Change is hard, and many of us procrastinate, make excuses or lag behind. Today, we simply can’t. Digital technologies are no longer “nice-to-have” tools of the business – today they are the business. Digital laggards are already finding their markets disrupted and their abilities to compete overturned. As they desperately try to outrun the Darwinian effect of their slow responses, they are faced with not one but three periods – or ages – of digital transformation to navigate – disruptive transformation, hyper-digital transformation and ubiquitous transformation. Understanding these three ages, and when they will emerge, is critical for business success.
Some may argue digital transformation started 70 years ago with ENIAC, the first commercially available computer, while others argue it started with the Internet. Whenever the starting point actually was, we can all agree that the proliferation of digital over the last five years has brought unprecedented personal and business disruption.
The age of disruptive transformation introduced eight specific technologies that disrupted traditional business operations and IT infrastructures, and are having a “large to very large” business impact on at least one-quarter of the digital leaders in our survey:
Big data/business analytics (54%)
Mobile technologies (40%)
Cloud computing (32%)
Social media (31%)
Collaboration technologies (26%)
These eight technologies are data-centric – they are all about producing, managing, analyzing, securing and storing data in new and innovative ways, and then acting on it. With the exception of biotechnology, these digital technologies are critical components of OILS, and profoundly impact business strategies, business processes and human interactions.
These digital technologies – which should already be implemented and scaling to have an impact on your organization – now serve as the foundation for the next two periods of digital transformation. If these top eight digital technologies are not already in place within your IT infrastructure, the current age of hyper-digital transformation will threaten your company’s very existence.
During the second period of digital-related change – the age of hyper-digital transformation – the pace of change and the business impact of digital technologies greatly accelerate. The eight top technologies from the previous era will rapidly increase their business impact by an average of 74% among digital leaders by 2020. This increase is a sign of the enormity of the forces at work, the size of investments needed, and the cadence at which organizations need to adapt to stay relevant and competitive.
In the age of hyper-digital transformation, nine additional, incremental digital technologies join the eight from the previous age. These nine start with a relatively low level of importance today but increase by an average of 145% among digital leaders by the year 2020. These nine additional digital technologies reach the threshold of having an “important to very important” business impact among at least one-fourth of digital leaders:
Telepresence (Skype, Google Hangouts, etc.) (49%)
Digital currency (49%)
Artificial intelligence (46%)
Robotic process automation (software) (41%)
Sharing economy platforms like Uber (39%)
Robots (hardware) (33%)
When combined, these seventeen digital technologies increase their business impact among digital leaders by an average of 112% between 2016 and 2020. The predicted business impact of these digital technologies mean that the business and IT organizations you operate today will need to look very different by 2020 in order to keep up and compete successfully.
Retail is considered a canary in the coalmine for many other industries. As such, when retail giants begin to fail, it is important to pay attention and heed the warning signs. Retail giant Sports Authority led for bankruptcy in March 2016, and according to many analysts, this was due in large part to the company’s slow response to online and mobile competition. In May 2016, Aeropostale led for bankruptcy, and according to analysts, it couldn’t keep up with fast-changing consumer behaviors and the speed of emerging fashion trends at the same rate as their online competitors. Also in May2016, the UK-based BHS entered administration (i.e., led for bankruptcy), and according to reports, the company had fallen far behind its digital competitors and fast-changing consumer trends.
The consensus among retail analysts is these companies failed to digitally transform quickly enough, which resulted in lost ground to more tech-savvy competitors.
In the final period of the digital transformation trilogy – the age of ubiquitous transformation in the year 2025 – our research finds the business impact of the previous age slowing as companies work to digest the incredible change of the two previous ages. However, even in this more pedestrian age, respondents expect an impressive 35% increase in the business impact of digital technologies.
In this era, six new technologies mature and join the previous seventeen, all of which are now having a “large to very large” business impact on the organizations at the forefront of digital change:
Geospatial information systems (41%)
3-D printing (40%)
Virtual reality (39%)
Autonomous self-driving cars (34%)
Among digital leaders, these six digital technologies are expected to increase their business impact an average of 96% between 2020 and 2025.
These six additional data-driven technologies are at once foundational and revolutionary. They highlight dramatic changes to come in industries such as transportation, banking, finance and commerce and manufacturing, all made possible by the digital transformations that preceded them.
Timing is everything, and the correct sequencing of technology implementation and budgeting, from proof of concept through implementation of production-ready systems, is critical. Our list of 23 digital technologies, their maturity timeframes and projected business impact (posited by our respondents) are powerful tools to plan your organization’s digital transformation strategy.
***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.
Senior Analyst, Digital Transformation, Cognizant
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Kevin Benedict is an opinionated Senior Analyst at Cognizant's Center for the Future of Work, SAP Mentor Alumnus, speaker, writer, and mobile and digital strategies expert. He is a popular keynote speaker, and in the past three years he has shared his insights into mobile and digital strategies with companies in 17 different countries. He has over 30 years of experience working with enterprise applications, and he is a veteran mobile industry executive.
He wrote the Forward to SAP Press' bestselling book on enterprise mobility titled Mobilizing Your Enterprise with SAP, and he has written over 3,000 articles.
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